by Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Esq. 

I am deeply honored to publish Back Into the Future and also grateful to my former students who took the time to share their personal stories. My inspiration for this project came from my students and the clients we have served over the last decade in the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (Clinic) at Penn State Law in University Park. Today, many former students work as immigration attorneys in large law firms, solo practitioners, non-profit organizations and in the federal government.

The mission of the clinic is to advance immigrants’ rights through legal excellence, advocacy, education, and collaboration with key stakeholders on immigration law and policy. My teaching goal is for students to understand the policy, politics, and law of immigration, and relationship between the three. Students work on one or more of the following types of cases and projects: policy products on behalf of institutional clients; outreach and education with the community and local municipality; and legal support in individual cases. Clinic cases and projects include a list of the specific learning goals I have for students who work on them. 

The structure of the Clinic has evolved and expanded over the last decade. When I first launched the Clinic, it was a “100% policy” Clinic as I was fortunate to have several national organizations interested in serving as clients. Students have in some cases traveled to Washington, D.C. to present recommendations on the reports they have drafted to stakeholders such as the White House, Congress, and Department of Justice. In the early years, students also traveled each semester to York County Prison, York Immigration Court and the local not for profit to learn and reflect on each of these experiences. Visit our website to review a list of the Clinic’s publications.

Over the years, the Clinic has become increasingly more involved in the community and in individual cases. In the community, the Clinic is a centerpiece for information on immigration. The Clinic has worked closely with the Police Department, Mayor, Borough of State College, local women’s resource center, and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center on outreach and education projects. Clinic students have also prepared and delivered first-rate Continuing Legal Education programs to members of the Centre County Bar Association. Since the 2016 election, the Clinic has been a critical voice in providing accurate and timely information about immigration policy change. Since 2012, the Clinic has played an important role in screening individuals and families who may qualify for relief under programs like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The Clinic has conducted group rights presentations to immigration detainees held in Clinton County Jail. Our website provides a deeper description of our work in the community. Students have worked on a handful of individual cases. For example, the Clinic was assigned a detained pro bono case by the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center. Students were involved in interviewing the client several times, putting together the legal case and information, securing and searching for a medical expert who would travel to the jail and evaluate the client, among other things. Our website includes testimonials by clients as well as testimonials by students.

I hope these essays showcase some of the projects and cases students have worked on during their time at the Clinic and the impact they have made to individuals, institutions, and the community. Importantly, these essays also reveal how the authors’ personal experiences have shaped how they entered law school and how they define themselves as lawyers. I hope readers can taste the sweat, blood, and heart of gold it takes to work in the immigration space — especially in a climate of ever changing policy and heightened uncertainty about the future. Beyond the essays, are photographs by each author to place a face on a story as well as selected excerpts of clinic projects and cases over the last decade. The volume ends with a closing by Dean Hari M. Osofsky to whom I am grateful for building excellence at Penn State Law.

This volume would not have been possible without a village of support. Thank you to Angela Lombardo and Ashley Medina for editing early drafts; Rebecca Mattson and her team for editorial assistance; Ally Laird, Open Publishing Program Specialist and Penn State University Libraries Open Publishing for publishing this edition; and last but not least, former students who agreed to and drafted essays.

This volume is dedicated to the partners and clients of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.


Citation: Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Prologue, in Back Into the Future of Immigration: Personal Stories by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic (Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia ed., 2018).

Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Esq.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Clinical Professor of Law at Penn State Law. She is an expert on immigration law, with research focusing on prosecutorial discretion’s role in immigration law, and the intersections of race, national security, and immigration. She teaches doctrinal courses on immigration and asylum, and refugee law. She is also the founder/director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, where she supervises students.

Photograph of Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Esq.